Lack of objectivity weighs heavily on ‘Truth’
By Bob Bloom
One of the embarrassing moments in the near-stellar journalism practiced by CBS News was its 2004 “60 Minutes” investigation into the National Guard service of then-President George W. Bush.
According to the report, Bush received preferential treatment for entry into the Guard, never showed up for training and never completed his service.
Unfortunately, as has been so thoroughly acknowledged, the papers used in the report were copies and their authenticity could not be verified.
CBS was vilified for airing the report one month before the 2004 presidential election, and an inquiry into Mapes and her team was conducted.
The outcome was that Mapes was fired, and, a few months later, Rather resigned.
These events form the backbone of “Truth,” based on a book by Mapes and starring Cate Blanchett as the producer and Robert Redford as Rather.
While “Truth” is a solid movie, it faces the same problem as the original report — a perceived lack of objectivity.
The film, written and directed by James Vanderbilt, cannot overtly claim that a cover-up or conspiracy was initiated to protect Bush, but it slyly intimates that something took place to protect the president.
And, like the “60 Minutes” piece, the film fails to offer any substantial evidence to support its claim.
“Truth” works hard to make a profound statement about journalism in the vein of “All the President’s Men” or “The Insider,” but it falls short mainly because it refuses to admit that the report was simply shoddy journalism.
The fact that the piece was aired without direct confirmation from the people involved or the discovery of the original documents that served as the foundation for the report gives the network a black eye for rushing to judgment.
Instead, “Truth” spends much of its running time showing Mapes and others desperately trying to convince their superiors at CBS and critics outside the network that the report is true and that a conspiracy is involved to bury the facts about Bush.
“Truth” is worth seeing, mainly for Blanchett’s performance. She is a dogged firebrand who works tirelessly to get a story she fervently believes is true.
She is even better when she sees her world begin to crumble and she must go on the defensive to protect her people, especially Rather, the network and her reputation.
Her Mapes is a true believer, preaching to the end that, despite the lack of original documentation, the story is based on fact.
The film is engrossing and compelling.
Redford, who wisely does not try to imitate Rather, is stalwart, and costars Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss and Dennis Quaid all add strong support.
“Truth” is more a tragedy than a drama, as we watch part of a respected news organization implode as its members fight corporate pressure to deliver a strong story on time, and then must suffer the consequences when doing so backfires in their faces.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
2½ stars out of 4
(R), language, brief nudity